It had to end that way didn’t it? The Florida Gators outplayed Florida State for the majority of the game and intercepted Jameis Winston 4 times. But once again the lack of a Florida offense, and very questionable play-calling, doomed the Gators in Will Muschamp’s last game as the head coach of the Gators.
The Gators looked well in control of the game early with the defense picking off Winston 3 times in the first quarter. Unfortunately Florida couldn’t find the end zone off of any of those turnovers. Austin Hardin gave the Gators a 9-0 lead with 3 field goals but 1 play changed the game. Florida had just gotten their 3rd interception and was poised to take a commanding lead starting their drive inside the FSU 10. Florida quarterback Treon Harris hit tight end Tevin Westbrook in the hands for what looked like a short gain. But Westbrook(who dropped the game winning touchdown against LSU earlier this season) bobbled the ball and popped it up to FSU’s Terrance Smith who returned the interception for a momentum swinging touchdown. A pair of Nick O’Leary(who it seems has been at Florida State for 7 years) touchdowns later FSU lead 21 to 9. But Harris was able to hit Clay Burton for a quick score after a Florida State fumble to pull Florida to 21-16 at the half. Another Hardin field goal made it 21-19 going into the 4th and the Florida defense was having its way with FSU.
Then, the Will Muschamp era was summed up in 1 quarter. Florida wide reciever Latroy Pittman was flagged for a costly personal foul that stalled a promising drive, a pair of holding calls that negated first downs, Hardin missed a pair of makeable field goals and FSU converted a 37 yard kick to give FSU a 24-19 lead late in the game. But Florida had a chance. With around 2 minutes left Florida had the ball at midfield. 3 incompleted deep passes set up 4th and 10. Harris finds a wide open Demarcus Robinson past the first down marker, but the throw was slightly behind Robinson and the Gators’ most dynamic receiver dropped the ball, ending the Gators hopes of sending Muschamp out a winner.
Will Muschamp will be remembered as a coach that just couldn’t find a way to get his offense to help his elite defense, thanks in large part to inconsistent quarterback play. But Muschamp will also be remembered as a coach that loved his players and who’s players loved him. The Gators wanted nothing more than to send “Coach Boom” out a winner, a la Ron Zook. Muschamp will also be remember for doing things the right way. While his fiery personality rubbed some, mostly opposing fans, the wrong way, the man handled everything with as much class and dignity as any coach in America. Muschamp will likely be hired by an elite school as their defensive coordinator and will continue to produce top defensive units on a consistent basis. He’ll be alright.
But what about the Gators? Now that they are all in on their coaching search, what will the new coach be looking at? While its all speculation right now the list of potential candidates includes names like Bob Stoops, Dan Mullen, Hugh Freeze, Dabo Swinney, Rich Rodriguez, Charlie Strong, Mike Gundy, and even Chip Kelly among others. Of course it will be a rebuilding process that could take time to turn around. Or maybe not. Florida is looking to hire a coach with a background on the offensive side of the ball. That new coach will also have a group of talented players to plug into his system. Florida will likely have 3 quarterbacks in Treon Harris, Jeff Driskell, and Will Grier (who was redshirted this year) to battle it out for the starting job in camp. Behind the QB Florida will have a talented group of backs. Kelvin Taylor, Brandon Powell, and Adam Lane are all talented underclassmen and will be back next season and Matt Jones may return for his senior season. Florida will also have a group of young talented wide receivers lead by Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fullwood, Alvin Bailey, and Ryan Sousa. The offensive line will be replacing 3 starters but the bodies will be there. Most importantly for the new coach he will be inheriting an elite defense with arguably the best secondary in the country lead by Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor at the corners. If the right coach comes in a makes the right moves with the quarterback position, the Gators could find themselves contenders sooner rather than later.